The city of Milwaukee’s appeal to force a former lead paint manufacturer to pay for the cleanup of 11,000 contaminated properties was rejected.
The Court of Appeals ruled that NL Industries Inc. does not have to pay the city costs of cleaning up the inner-city homes. The city sought $52.6 million for the program, which involved replacing old windows.
The Milwaukee County jury ruled last year the widespread presence of lead paint in Milwaukee homes was a public nuisance, but NL Industries did not “intentionally and unreasonably engage in conduct” that caused it and was not negligent.
The city filed an appeal, saying the company knew for decades that childhood lead paint poisoning was a serious public health problem but continued to sell and promote the product.
The city says that testing showed one in five Milwaukee children had lead levels in their blood at or above the federal threshold for poisoning. Lead in the bloodstream, typically caused by ingesting paint dust and chips, can cause neurological damage and learning disabilities, especially in children. Lead paint was banned in 1978.
The appeals court rejected the city’s contention that the company knowingly sold a dangerous product, saying dangers associated with lead paint dust were largely unknown at the time.
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